According to the global nutrition report 2020 published by UNICEF, almost a quarter of all children under 5 years of age are stunted. At the same time, overweight and obesity are increasing rapidly in nearly every country in the world. Glaring inequalities are reported as amongst the root causes. Underweight is a persisting issue for the poorest countries and can be ten times higher than in wealthier countries while overweight and obesity prevail in wealthier countries at rates of up to five times higher than in poorer countries.
There are approximately 516.5 million malnourished individuals living in the Asia and Pacific region and about 239 million malnourished living in Sub-Saharan Africa. Malnourished children risk losing 10 percent of their earning potential over the life course while estimates also suggest that, due to child undernutrition, African countries are losing the equivalent of between 1.9 and 16.5 percent of their GDP1. Globally, there are 821.6 million people that are considered undernourished or starving.2 Around 45 percent of deaths among children under 5 years of age are linked to undernutrition.
Covid-19 exacerbated the already fragile situation of global nutrition especially for poor and vulnerable families, exposing the vulnerability and weaknesses of already fragile food systems. Accessibility and affordability of healthy, sustainably produced food become even more challenging. Access to staple food distribution and local food markets becomes at risk and millions of households in formerly food-secure regions of the world have fallen into severe food insecurity. In battling the pandemic, governments are driven to reduce social services such as family allowances and school nutrition programmes that are a lifeline for vulnerable populations. The virus’ impact on the economy caused food and nutrition shortages, again unevenly impacting different groups of the population.
In building back better, governments take measures to ensure that there is enough nutritious food, distributed fairly, to cover basic nutrition needs – especially for the most vulnerable. This is reflected in the African Union’s declaration of 2022 as the year of nutrition with the theme of “Building resilience in nutrition on the African continent: Accelerate the human capital and social-economic development”. Moreover, the African Union and AUDA-NEPAD have in place the African Regional Nutrition Strategy (ARNS) which was initially developed to guide member states on nutrition policies and programs over a period of 10 years from 1993 – 2004; 2005- 2015 and 2015-2025. The ARNS 2015-2025 calls on all AU Member States to put together multi-sectoral nutrition action plans, budgets and expenditure tracking systems for effective implementation and monitoring of nutrition interventions.
UNICEF and WFP call for better food systems for nutritious diets, better integration of nutrition services in health care systems, better financing, and better data. The world needs a more equitable, sustainable nutritious, efficient and inclusive food systems everywhere, as the UN Food Systems Summit strongly advocated for launching a global coalition to support national food system transformation pathways. Similarly, Africa Common Position4 which was led by AUDA-NEPAD on UN Food Systems provides a synthesis of member states’ expressed views, perspectives and priorities as well as ambitions on key issues shaping Africa’s and the global food systems.
Click here to access the report on the AUDA-NEPAD website.